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Who should have the flu vaccine?

Flu is an unpredictable virus that can be unpleasant, but if you're otherwise healthy it'll usually clear up on its own in about a week.

It can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups, including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition.

Certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

These people are advised to have a flu vaccine each year.

People who should have a flu vaccine

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk.

This is to help protect them against catching flu and developing serious complications.

You should have the flu vaccine if you: 

  • are 65 years old or over
  • are pregnant
  • have certain medical conditions
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
  • receive a carer's allowance, or you're the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • live with someone who's at high risk of coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list) or you expect to be with them on most days over winter

Later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to 50-64-year-olds. More information will be available later in the autumn.

However, if you are aged 50-64 in an at-risk group, you should not delay having your flu vaccine.

Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. It's your employer's responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine.

You may also be able to have the flu vaccine at the GP surgery or a local pharmacy offering the service if you're a frontline health or social care worker employed by a:

  • registered residential care or nursing home
  • registered homecare organisation
  • hospice

You can also have the flu vaccine if you provide health or social care through Direct Payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health Budgets (such as Personal Assistants) or both.

Flu vaccine for children

The flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:

  • children over the age of 6 months with a long-term health condition
  • children aged 2 and 3 years on 31 August 2020 (that is, born between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2018)
  • children in primary school
  • children in year 7 (secondary school)

Children aged between 6 months and 2 years who are eligible for the flu vaccine will receive an injected flu vaccine.

Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between 2 and 17 will usually have the nasal spray flu vaccine.

65s and over and the flu vaccine

You're eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2020 to 2021) if you're aged 65 and over on 31 March 2021 (that is, you were born on or before 31 March 1956).

So if you're currently 64 but will be 65 on 31 March 2021, you do qualify.

It's important that you benefit from having the most effective vaccine.

For those aged 65 and over you'll usually be offered the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine. This vaccine contains an adjuvant that helps the immune system make a stronger response to the vaccine.

Pregnant women and the flu vaccine

If you're pregnant, you're advised to have the injected flu vaccine, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you have reached.

That's because there's strong evidence to suggest pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu.

If you're pregnant, you'll benefit from the flu vaccine because:

  • it reduces your chance of getting serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
  • it reduces your risk of having a miscarriage, or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birthweight, because of flu
  • it'll help protect your baby, as they'll continue to have some immunity to flu for the first few months after their birth

It's safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards.

Talk to a GP, midwife or pharmacist if you want more information.

Find out more about flu vaccine in pregnancy.

Flu vaccine for people with medical conditions

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:  

This list of conditions is not definitive. It's always an issue of clinical judgement.

A GP can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.

The vaccine should always be offered in such cases, even if you're not technically in one of the risk groups.

If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, or they're on the NHS shielded patient list, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine.

Speak to a GP or pharmacist about this.

GOV.UK also provides Easy Read guides to flu vaccination for people with a learning disability.

Flu vaccine for health and social care workers

Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and because flu is so contagious, staff, patients and residents are all at risk of infection.

If you're a frontline health and social care worker, you're eligible for an NHS flu vaccine.

It's your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you. Find out what arrangements have been made at your workplace for providing flu vaccination.

If you're an NHS-employed frontline healthcare worker, the NHS will pay for your vaccination.

You may be able to have the flu vaccine at the GP surgery or a pharmacy offering the service if your employer does not offer a flu vaccination programme and you're a frontline health or social care worker employed by a:

  • registered residential care or nursing home
  • registered homecare organisation
  • hospice

You can also have the flu vaccine if you provide health or social care through Direct Payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health Budgets (such as Personal Assistants), or both.

The flu vaccine will help protect you, your colleagues and the patients and residents you care for.

Flu vaccine for carers

If you're the main carer for someone who's elderly or disabled, speak to a GP or pharmacist about having a flu vaccine along with the person you care for.

Read more about the flu vaccine for carers on the Carers UK website.

Read more about the flu vaccine.

Page last reviewed: 15 July 2019
Next review due: 15 July 2022